Comments: 2529 • Responses: 63  • Date: 

zact1734 karma

Oh my goodness please forgive me I am being overwhelmed with questions so excuse me. I will have to go in 15 minutes for about an hour or so to eat lunch with my son and grandson. I will resume after that. Thank you!!!!!!

sonny1463478 karma

What was the reception you got when you returned home?

zact11102 karma

Very bad. Only got better in the 80s. Was spit on once and was hated by many people. Wish they knew I was no different

Unconfidence446 karma

This is actually a question, not a lesson.

Did you know that in the late 1950's that Ho Chi Minh was attempting to establish a pro-US capitalist Vietnam, and that we wouldn't support him in doing so because it meant undermining French interests?

zact1605 karma

Yes, in the 1950s. We felt we owed a lot to the French. Everyone got screwed all around. French failed in nam just as we did. Should have taken him up on the offer.

KJP1990433 karma

Hello and thank you for your service! I am high school history teacher and recently just finished a unit on the Vietnam War. What would you like to be passed on to students about the war? What are the most important things you wish young people and people in general understand about the war?

zact1632 karma

First off, thank you for teaching history. Awesome

I hope kids know how lucky they are to have been born in a generation where they aren't drafted. Please let them know that Vietnam was different. It wasn't like WW2 or WW1. Hope they know that and Thank you

tousie382 karma

What was the closest you think you came to dying that you recall?

zact1803 karma

I was shot a little under my buttcheek. Only time I was shot. My squad mates laughed and I was healed but in the 5 minutes that I was laying on the dirty jungle floor, I though that that was it. I was over and no one was looking out for me.

GhostOfPluto1359 karma

Did you show the president?

zact11146 karma

Ha ha I laughed thank you

DayWalkerRunner378 karma

Have you ever returned to Vietnam since?

zact1653 karma

Great question! My wife wants me to and I want to somewhat as well. Scared that it will bring back too many memories. But no, I haven't been back.

bepbop139 karma

I'm currently living in Vietnam. Have been working 4 months at a center for children, raised by american and vietnamese war veterans together after the war. All I can say is the vietnamese are treating the war as it practically never happened, and westerners are treated with a lot of respect. I've also met quite a few vietnamese veterans, some having participated in as many as 3 different wars during their life time. Unfortunately due to my very lackluster vietnamese skills I wasn't able to get to know these people better, or ask for their opinion on the war. All I can say is that the vietnamese are by far the most amazing people I've ever met. Especially considering their recent and extremely tragic history.

zact1110 karma

That is very good to hear. Thank you

Bilkokuya366 karma

Best Memory (ever)?

Worst Memory (ever)?

zact11117 karma

Worst: Well, as said in the other thread, the largest tragedy was the girl I killed. Killed her on the banks of the Song Tra Bong river. She was caught in crossfire and I blew a softball sized hole in her head, practically knocking it off. Saw her close up after and was patted on the back for it and commemorated for it. I think about the poor girl every day and cried for weeks about it. She looked about 20

Best: the nights I spend with my squad Good guys.

Asbestos101274 karma

Was she a combatant or just unfortunate to be there?

zact1625 karma

In a village and a "civilian". Not a combatant.

Mortbopet346 karma

Were you ever in a place where Agent Orange was used? And what is your experience with it?

zact1586 karma

I saw the effects of it. We would roll up after it had done its work (much after, you can't be near that stuff after it drops for a while). People's faces had been eaten like bugs eat a log. Bodies lifeless and empty!!!

RedditRalf286 karma

In movies of the Vietnam there are quite a lot of references to soldiers smoking weed, doing opium. Did you experience any of this 1st hand? and what was it like in an atmosphere of war?

zact1433 karma

As said in other thread, good question and my entire platoon had tried cocaine at least once. Never touched the stuff, but it was a way to swiftly and efficiently take the rough edge off. It was seen but not really talked about except in tight circles of friends.

kingdadrock229 karma

Do you still talk to the people you served with?

zact1423 karma

Absolutely. We meet occasionally and it's always scary/fun/miserable to reminisce.

blackny97gsx218 karma

Are you glad you went? Do you regret going? Do you think it made you stronger/better/more mature? If you could go back in time and redo it all, would you do something differently? Basically, in retrospect, are you glad for how it changed you or do you wish it never happened to you?

zact1573 karma

Are you glad you went?

Well, I really had no choice. No. I thought about fleeing.

Do you think it made you stronger?

It made be wary of everything. Had a mild case of PTSD.

If you could go back in time and redo it all, would you do something differently?

I wouldn't have killed that poor girl

Are you glad for how it changed you or do you wish it never happened?

It was a tragic mark on my life in many ways, but it also shaped me into the person I am today. Saw things I wouldn't wish upon any human

MasterGolbez135 karma

Have you recovered from your PTSD??

zact1399 karma

Yes. I have fully recovered with much help from therapy. Never took drugs, though!!!

gladius00181 karma

How did you kill the poor girl? Was it an accident? Details?

zact1314 karma

I'll explain it again. I killed a 20-some year old girl by shooting her in the center of her face. She was caught in crossfire and I blew a hole in her face as she was running on the banks of the Song Tra Bong river. Went up to her body later and felt overwhelmingly sad for her and it still sits with me today. I think she was running toward the road to get away. Very dainty, about 110 lbs.

Iam_Noah210 karma

What did it feel like to be shot?

zact1599 karma

For me there was no pain at first, just pressure. Like my upper back leg was punched really hard. Then the pain kicked in and it hurt very, very badly. For 4 or 5 seconds it's euphoric. You think you're finally being taken to some sort of heaven. Weird because I've been an atheist my whole life.

dontgetaddicted212 karma

To the atheist point, how do you feel when people say "There are no atheist in Fox Holes?"

zact11104 karma

Bullshit. Atheists Secularists founded this country

sp2468201 karma

What was your job? What weapon did you carry? how many firefights were you in?

zact1369 karma

I was an infantryman. Patrol man specifically. M16 and the 1911 as a pistol. I was in 4 real firefights with two sides fighting directly at each other.

asdjdsfof190 karma

Read through a few questions in the previous thread, thanks for taking your time, it's very interesting. Cheers

zact1317 karma

My pleasure, thank you for hearing an old man!!

mooseman182107 karma

Old people have the best stories! I always love hearing my grandfather talk about what it was like back in the day and then I get to see his face light up and smile. I'm always down for a good story!

zact1562 karma

Who are you calling old?

ZachMettenberger151 karma

How does it feel to kill someone?

zact1613 karma

Everything I touch is much colder. My soul was sucked away when I killed that poor girl

BluePinky150 karma

How realistic is the combat portrayed in the movie Platoon?

zact1693 karma

I'm very sorry I have not seen the movie Platoon. The Things They Carried is a great book and is very realistic.

IronMaiden571141 karma

How did you and others feel about being sent to get shot at and possibly die for a cause you didn't believe in?

zact1333 karma

A lot of people told themselves they believed in it

barbed140 karma

How'd you learn to Reddit?

zact1345 karma

My grand son. Very smart kid and very savvy with computers and how they work and the Internet!!!

patrickshanahan137 karma

How was you lunch sir?

zact1256 karma

Thank you, it was great. Had salami and cheese sandwich

IcemanSF121 karma

I've been told my many Vietnam vets that they hated the transition from the M14 to the M16. What was you thought on that? Also, favorite memory? I'd like to extend my gratitude for your response. I did some time in the big green-machine myself, although I've never seen combat.

zact1212 karma

It was tough for a lot of people, but I loved it. Most hated the cartridge, but I didn't mind.

Favorite memory? Spending time with my friends after a long and sweaty day in Vietnam. They were my brothers

sexchangedtheworld100 karma

Hi, thank you for your service!! Were you drafted or voluntarily sign up?

zact1280 karma

Drafted at 19 out of high school. No choice for a family of Catholics

devonclaire97 karma

My dad is a Vietnam vet; he's a little older than you. He was an officer and says he never saw much combat.

He doesn't really like to talk about his experiences there. As a Vietnam vet yourself, why do you think this is?

I've always tried to get him to talk more about his experiences there, but for the most part, he kind of shuts down and has little to say. He says he never killed anyone but saw some things he'd rather not have seen, like extreme poverty amongst the Vietnamese, and drug abuse by drafted GIs. That's really most of what he's ever told me. Should I keep asking him about it, or accept that he doesn't want to share?

Thanks for serving our country.

zact1139 karma

Please keep persisting. He'll open up if you get him to understand how much you understand the atrocities that were happening. No doubt he saw some.

JackBurtonPorkChop83 karma

Where did you operate out of? Were your fire fights mostly against regular NVA or VC? My dad was in the central highlands in '69/'70, thanks for your service.

zact1128 karma

What was his name? Always Cong, at least for myself. Binh Son District. Song Tra Bong river.

MagnoMurmure78 karma

Thank you for your service! I'm so humbled by draftees' service in the war, and I think it shows true character that you answered the nation's call. That's not to cast aspersions on the resistors or the COs, however; I think it was a complicated time and a complicated war, and I can't judge anyone. But you served, and thank you for it!

I'm an Army officer now in the Guard, which is a totally different organization from what it was in your era of service. The Reserve and Guard shouldered a massive burden of the deployments for the last decade, and it might've been less had there been a draft in place to supplement either the active duty force or the Guard/Reserve.

So as a draftee, do you think it would be more equitable if we reinstated conscription, albeit with common sense reforms - i.e. alternative national service (AmeriCorps, Peace Corps), guaranteed non-combat MOSs, no college/grad school exemptions, male/female draftee pool, requirement to register for the draft in exchange for federally guaranteed student loans, etc?

EDIT: Downvotes for thanking a soldier for his service and asking a question about national service? Really?

EDIT 2: ...and now upvotes. Hivemind of Reddit, thanks for being 'Murican. Thought I was pretty reasonable.

zact152 karma

The draft was required for WW2, and was, if we were to have the slightest chance to win, required in Vietnam. The prerequisites you list are perfect.

Valeralol77 karma

Do you support the draft?

zact1369 karma


LongJohn199275 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this! Did you work with the Australian Army while you were serving overseas?

zact1122 karma

Hehe, no I didn't but I know who/what you're talking about. Awesome folks from what I heard

winplease75 karma

Thanks for your service and for the AMA!

Did you have any greater sense of why you and the troops were sent to Vietnam in regard to the Cold War?

zact1259 karma

I mean, we were pawns in a fight that shouldn't have happened.

hyurirage18 karma

I'm not sure if this message is gonna get to you. First, I wanna thank you for your service to your country. I was born after the war was over. However, my dad was a Major for the South Vietnamese Army, based out of Soc Trang. From his stories, regardless what happened as a political justification from the US part, from the SVN's view, the American army was a blessing. He believed, as many of his friends and many SVN people, you (the people serving) in the army were the helping hand they asked for and needed. I'm sorry if I can't convey this in a meaningful way of thanks you deserve. But I can speak for my dad (since he's no longer here) and many of his friends and colleagues, THANK YOU.

zact117 karma

I have teared up from reading this. Such an honor to have been in the same country with your father and his pals. THANK YOU SIR!!!

flyingfalcon1263 karma

What, if any, souvenirs did you bring home with you when you returned? Also, thank you for your service, my grandfather served in Vietnam as well.

zact1145 karma

Brought a rock back. Had it cut in half and it's beautiful. Will take a pic if I can

BlueSuedeGoggles61 karma

Would you be interested in coming back to see how things are now? I've met a few American and Australian vets that came to visit, they were amazed.

zact194 karma

I would like to, but am hesitant. My wife wants me to

poochdogg57 karma

My girlfriend is Vietnamese and listening to these stories makes my heart hurt so bad. All I can picture is her being shot like that 20 year old girl and lying naked in a street. War is so wrong...

zact1242 karma

Son, war is indeed WRONG!!!!. God damn the people that send us there. I know that isn't necessary sometimes, but it must be known that it should be avoided at all costs

Barriej52 karma

Do they depict the combat in Vietnam accurately in War Films do you think?

zact1121 karma

Like Hollywood war films? Of the few I've seen, I'd say usually no.

hammernanvil40 karma

Was the Army still doing individual soldier rotation in your time? If so, what were your impressions of that practice?

zact173 karma

My squad was in a rotation and I feel it worked well.

twistedeye38 karma

Thanks for doing the AMA. As the son of a Vietnam vet, who also has a step father and 3 uncles who were vets as well, thank you for your service.

Did you suffer any long term problems or issues from your service? We couldnt touch my dad if he was sleeping and he was a stickler for being quiet. He absolutely hates loud noise. Anything similiar for you?

zact192 karma

I was lucky in that my PTSD was mild and wasn't life changing. I still woke up in freezing cold sweat and ready to pounce. I couldn't stand silence. Exact opposite. Always wanted to hear something. I believe that's one of the reasons I couldn't sleep.

mariuolo33 karma

What do you think of the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions?

zact1121 karma

I just wish we'd admit we were there for oil and control of OPEC.

vrphotosguy5528 karma

What was your favorite song to hear while in Vietnam?

zact1106 karma

Songs by the Beatles. I got crap for it but I still loved them

marmz11126 karma

My father served in the 3rd cavalry regiment, commanding a section of armored APC based out of Nui Dat in the South. (An Australian)

Last year, he and I revisited Vietnam for the first time in 40 years for my father, after having served 3 tours. It was an emotional visit and a bonding experience.

Have you ever thought about returning to Vietnam, perhaps with your own son or daughter?

Did you meet any Australian soldiers during your tour? What were they like?

zact141 karma

Wow, that must have been a great bonding experience between you two. My wife wants me to go back and so do I. I am just a little hesitant because of the memories that'll be brought back. I never met any Aussies, but heard about them!! Always good things

YouthInRevolt20 karma

First, my thoughts on you and that girl: as you know, war is fucking horrible. You were drafted and thus you didn't willingly sign up to seek out this death and destruction. You're only human. Maybe your human emotions (namely fear) got the best of you and the chaos of the entire situation caused you to be unable to distinguish between hostile and innocent targets.

Perhaps you have put the regret you've experienced from that event to good use in your life? Maybe you've spoken out more against violence in your lifetime than you otherwise may have if you didn't accidentally shoot that girl. Her death was a tragedy, but perhaps your reaction to it either directly or indirectly helped prevent further tragedies?

My question: What are your thoughts on reinstating the draft in the U.S. today? I personally believe that reinstating the draft would make it more difficult for the political class to start careless/endless wars, but perhaps there would be negative consequences to this as well that I'm not anticipating?

zact1127 karma

While the draft was required in previous wars, it should not be reinstated. No child should get a letter in the summer saying that he's going to have to drop his life and fight for a cause he may not believe in.

MagnoMurmure18 karma

What was your training pipeline from when you were drafted to when you deployed, and where were those schools? Did you serve elsewhere at all before being deployed to Vietnam?

I ask because I knew a guy who enlisted, went Infantry because he wanted to serve in combat in Vietnam, and then got sent to Korea for his whole enlistment.

zact130 karma

Please elaborate on "training pipeline"? In Vietnam from '69 to '71. Only time and place I served was in Vietnam. Thank you

MagnoMurmure13 karma

Like where did you go to basic training, where did you go to Infantry school?

zact122 karma

On the east coast. Then you're shipped off

Opaque_Justice16 karma

Hi, my grandpa served in Vietnam, he was very resentful towards the government especially after they revealed the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a false flag op. What is your opinion, or how do you feel about that whole shenanigan?

zact139 karma

It was bull crap. Excuses to push American agenda

champ133711 karma

Are you interested in history of major wars and conflicts? If so which one are you the most fascinated by?

zact138 karma

Fascinated by war of 1812. Everyone I must go for an hour but I will be back!! Sorry this is very huge for me and it is an honor that I get to share this all with you

blakbokis2 karma

What's your take on American imperialism?

zact122 karma

Imperialism? How so? We've policed the world too much, but we aren't Nazi Germany. Congs and Ho Chi Minh were trying to oppose a failed social policy (communism) upon their brothers. Should we have gone in? Well, standing here today, of course not. But don't call it imperialism.

BlueSuedeGoggles6 karma

There's still a deep distrust of the North down here in the South. Many people I've met in Saigon (they refuse to call it "Ho Chi Minh City") wish the US stuck it out a bit longer and stopped the communists taking over and have no problem saying so (even though it could get you into serious legal trouble)

Disclaimer: I am not 'Murican.

zact15 karma

Thank you for your kind words. I support you

ProblemPie2 karma

What was your MOS and where were you stationed? If you were drafted, I'm guessing general infantry, 'eh? I met a fellow the other day that had been a Green Beret during the Vietnam war. Crazy stuff. At any rate, thanks for your service!

zact13 karma

Haha!!! Thank you so much for reminding me of the Greenies!!! They were very solitary and clever. Kept to themselves.

rageatm162 karma

If you could change it, would you have rather voluntarily joined the service? How do you feel about the draft? Do you think it was necessary? Thanks so much for your service!

zact19 karma

I was drafted and would have never chosen to go voluntarily. The draft was necessary and thank you.

Bassjumper05901 karma

Did you know a James Turner? I work with him. Great guy.

zact11 karma

Sorry, buddy, I don't

GDISlayer1 karma

Thanks for your service. My uncle lost an eye in Vietnam, and according to my mom, doesn't like to talk about the whole era at all. I was wondering how it felt stepping back onto American soil for the first time afterwards?

zact11 karma

Felt safe for the first time. Except for the resentment I faced from citizens

bannedlol1 karma

Do you like commies?

zact11 karma


Dougdahead1 karma

If you never would have gotten drafted what do you think you would have been doing with your life instead?

zact11 karma

I have a love for astronomy. I would have just started my career in academia earlier.

WeaponexT1 karma

Thank you for your service. How much did they beat it into your head to keep your socks dry? Ever see anything bad come from someone who failed to do so?

zact17 karma

Haha !!!! Thank you for the memories. If you let your socks get wet.. Oh boy. Your foot would rot off. Socks were kept in a special container where they would remain dry.

mtbegbie-1 karma

Many Americans I come across seem to forget that your country lost the war. Do you concede that you lost the war? Do you think it was a blow in the infallible american psyche after being back to back world war champions?

zact11 karma

It was a political loss, a military victory